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Micro–train; macro–manage

Dave’s note:  The week, we again welcome Kim Shepherd as our guest author, with her blunt, on-the-target style.  As always, you should enjoy her insights for management…

By Kim Shepherd

You have enough on your plate without having to hold your employees’ hands or peer over their shoulders. In fact, the ideal scenario is to follow Lee Iacocca’s strategy: “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

Of course, in practice it’s not that easy. My own version is “Hire smart and hire right, and you’ll be a mentor rather than a boss.”

Here are some tactics and strategies for making this work.

Invest in training, and save on managing. Let’s assume you’re bringing on board people who already have expertise in their functional area (entry–level training is a whole micro-managerdifferent beast). You still need to make sure they are proficient in your systems and processes. Even more importantly, they need to understand and embrace your company’s values and ethics. That knowledge will serve as a compass as they continue to learn and grow in the organization. It sets them up to make decisions independently. Instead of spending a lot of time managing them, invest a little quality time in coaching them.

[Email readers, continue here…] In addition, take advantage of the trend in the training and development space toward self–directed learning. Provide access to your robust internal “university,” or to vendor–provided training.

Shut Your CEO Hole. When an employee –– let’s call her Maria –– comes to you for guidance, it’s tempting to blurt out a solution. Instead, hold your advice until Maria asks, “What do you think?” Just describing the problem may help Maria figure out the solution. You can provide a point of view to add an extra dimension, but avoid simply solving the problem.

Be consistent. It takes a little longer, but every time Maria (or anyone else) asks for help, push her to come up with her own solution. It may not be the one you had in mind, but from the leader’s point of view, the process of getting to a solution is more important than the solution itself. Pretty soon your people will be coming to you with solutions rather than problems.

Then and now. An addendum to the “hire smart, hire right” axiom is that you also won’t need a lot of infrastructure. The workplace is changing. In the 1960s you had to pay the salary of someone who would decide whether or not an employee could take time off in order to take her son to the dentist. Your people should be able to make that decision for themselves.

If fact, in a virtual environment like we have at our company, any employee can work any hours.  As long as the work is getting done, we don’t care. But you can only do that if you have established yourself as not being a micro–manager. To get there, you have to be secure in your vision and your own leadership skills. Then you need to hire right, and establish processes that promote independence.

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